People who are homeless are, by definition, socially marginalized and resource-deprived. However, studies show that a surprisingly large share of the homeless uses the Internet on a regular basis and for a variety of purposes, including seeking new information, building or maintaining social ties, and general entertainment. It remains unclear, however, whether and how Internet engagement creates opportunities for the homeless to acquire resources, access relevant services, and activate systems of social support.
The project has two related goals. The first is to examine the abilities and motivations of homeless persons in Los Angeles County for using the Internet. This includes an examination of the key barriers faced, the various strategies employed to overcome these barriers, and potential differences in online engagement patterns within this population. The second goal is to examine the role that Internet access plays in creating networks of support and facilitating access to resources that increase opportunities for transitioning out of homelessness.
The project is tied to an initiative by the Information Technology Agency of the City of Los Angeles to provide free Internet access throughout the area known as Skid Row, which is scheduled to launch in mid-2018.
Team members include Prof. Hernan Galperin, Prof. François Bar, Prof. Annette Kim (USC Price), Prof. Ellen Helsper (LSE) and doctoral students Matthew Bui, and Cynthia Barboza and Thai Le (USC Price).